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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2015 at 12:44 PM

Every Wednesday, we make a Spotify playlist containing tracks from artists covered or mentioned in the current music section. Listen while you read! And then use the City Paper pages to finish wrapping your presents.


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Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2015 at 10:55 AM

Devyn “Nerdboy” Swain is a native Philadelphian living in Pittsburgh, a hip-hop artist and a teacher, a student of mainstream hip-hop and a subversive voice outside it. In October, the 29-year-old released Philadelphia Warrior, a seven-song EP introduction to his witty, un-rushed delivery and patently old-school beats. It’s a promising release and a certified must-have for old-school purists and modern hip-hop fans alike. CP spoke with Swain via phone and email about Philly vs. Pittsburgh, hip-hop vs. rap, and how he became “Nerdboy.”

click to enlarge Devyn “Nerdboy” Swain - CHRISTOPHER RUTH
Christopher Ruth
Devyn “Nerdboy” Swain

How did Pittsburgh’s hip-hop scene strike you in comparison to Philadelphia’s?
Growing up I used to listen to a lot of different artists in Philly, whether it was Will Smith or The Roots or Eve or State Property or Cassidy. When I was growing up the scene was more about the hardcore street rappers, before guys like me. I didn’t really feel like there was necessarily a lane for me there.

Because I’ve come of age more as an artist during my time in Pittsburgh, I would say that I prefer the scene here a little bit more for what I’m trying to do now. I feel like the network, even though it’s a big network, it’s not too big where you don’t know who the major players are, and I think that it’s a little bit easier to maneuver here. The Pittsburgh sound, while you have different artists out there on the mainstream level, you have Wiz [Khalifa], you have Mac Miller, and now on the local level you have people like Boaz and some other people that I’ve heard about... I think that while it’s a smaller market than Philly, there’s more opportunities for people that are kinda underdogs.

What made you want to stay in Pittsburgh?

I met some friends and started to gain some more opportunities after I graduated from school in 2012. When I didn’t really know anybody and it was harder to get things like jobs or for the musical part, it might have been tougher to get venues to perform at and everything. Once my network started to broaden a bit and I started to gain more opportunities and started to reap more fruits for all my labors as far as going to school, volunteering and working, it just started to become a more livable place for me. Because initially I came out here, I thought it was just gonna be a two year stint, and that was it. But because of all the opportunities that I’ve been afforded, I feel like that has been the primary reason I stayed out here, because of the network.

I feel like in the late 90s and early 2000s there was a cultural emphasis on the differences between hip-hop and rap, but we don’t talk about that as much any more. Do you ever think about that dichotomy?
I do think about the dichotomy. Some people would say that poets can be rappers but rappers can’t be poets. Maybe they mean that rappers aren’t naturally inclined to be poetic. That’s why I model myself after people like Kanye West, Mos Def, Common, or even Lupe Fiasco, and even to a lesser extent, some of the newer MCs that have come out in the 2010s. I think guys like Kendrick [Lamar] and J. Cole, if you turn the beat off and have them recite their lyrics a cappella at a spoken word event, I feel like it would still carry well because of the passion, the raw emotion, the authenticity is there to carry it.

Rap is an extension of hip-hop, but hip-hop, to me, is limitless, whereas rap can be very formulaic. Hip-Hop, when we talk about the complexity of it, will never be formulaic because there’s space for Eminem, space for gangster rap like Ice Cube and NWA, there’s space for conscious rappers like Lupe [Fiasco] and Common, there’s space for guys that might different or off-the-cuff like Chance The Rapper. I feel like hip-hop is ever-evolving whereas rap is kind of narrow-minded, it’s just an expression of hip-hop, but hip hop is the bigger thing, it’s the culture.

You mentioned that “Blackademia” was the last song finished for the EP. What was it about finishing that track that made you feel like the album was complete?
I like the way that it sounded. It was time. I really like the beat a lot because it reminded of something, maybe some old-school Tribe [Called Quest] stuff or Wu Tang, I can’t really put it into words, but whatever golden-age era song or producer you can think of, that’s the kind of feeling that I got when I heard the beat for “Blackademia.”

It doesn’t really sound like Wu-Tang exactly, but I definitely got a RZA-vibe from the beat, in the way that it’s sort of melodically open-ended. It’s a really strong song.

Yeah, thanks man. I appreciate that. I tell you, beat collection can take a talented artist and make them a legendary artist. That’s what I’m all about, I’m all about the beats that when you listen to it it doesn’t matter what era you listen to them in, but they’re still gonna sound dope. LIke when you listen to Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt or [Nas’] Illmatic, they’re gonna groove really well, because the beats are fresh.

When I look at Kanye, who’s my biggest influence, I don’t look at him as the best technical MC. Around the time College Dropout came out, I was just this nerdy dude senior year in high school that was just a fan of hip hop but you had Jay-Z with The Black Album, you had Freeway with Philly Freeway, you had 50 Cent with Get Rich Or Die Trying, you had all these albums out here but they seemed to be pretty much the same, where they sold drugs or they’re gangsters or they’re ladies men that get all the girls. Then when Kanye came out with College Dropout, he kinda seemed like this choir boy with edge, he was the bridge I needed between the mainstream world and MCs like Mos Def, Common, Talib Kwali.

Has working as a teacher effected your approach to music and vice versa?
Absolutely. I think the best indicator I receive is when the kids tell you that they looked you up on YouTube and they start quoting some of your lyrics and it makes me want to be more accountable for the things that I say.

At the end of the day, I know that my value is to the community before it’s to any rap industry or anybody’s idea of hip-hop, I know that I’m somebody that wants to be revered in the community more than I want to be a big star. However if i ever do become a big star, I want to be able to leverage the opportunities that I’ve received through being a star into healing the community. The kids are constant reminders that I have to be accountable for the things that I say, and if they ask me a question of what I meant or why did I use a certain word or phrase to describe how I was feeling, then I want to be able to defend my lyrics the way a grad school student, a doctoral student has to defend their thesis or their dissertation. it makes me really self aware of the stuff I’m saying.

How did Renaissance Music Records start?
It was something started by my friend Cedric [Perry] based off my conversations with him about how we want to get back to that old vintage sound in hip hop, definitely loving the golden era of hip-hop.We just really wanted to bring back that sound so Renaissance Music was perfect.

We’re history buffs, we’re foodie buffs, anything that has to do with culture, heritage, anything that we can cling to that’s positive we want to make sure we bring it back and be diverse. I think that’s what Renaissance Music is essentially about: it’s about the guy that really doesn’t fit in anywhere but he’s able to create his own niche and get people to follow behind just because he’s being his authentic self.

How did you get the name Nerdboy? [question via email]
Prior to my attendance at Cheyney University, I wrote an anthem for students that were considered geeks, outcasts, dorks, etc. The song was called "Nerdboy Step." In fact here are the lyrics to the hook:

"Tape on glasses, A's in classes/
NERDBOY STEP! NERDBOY STEP/

We stayin' out of trouble, persevering through the struggle/

NERDBOY STEP! NERDBOY STEP/

Poindexters get it in, bookworms can get it in/
NERDBOY STEP! NERDBOY STEP/

Now just pocket-protect, just pocket protect/

Just pop, pop, pop 'n' lock, pocket protect.”


Nerdboy begins work on The Spectrum, his full-length named for the iconic Philadelphia arena, in 2016. 

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Posted By and on Tue, Dec 22, 2015 at 10:09 AM

The Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, located at 2001 Wylie Ave. in the Hill District, celebrated Christmas on Friday, Dec. 18 with song and dance. The church was established in 1875 and has had less than a dozen pastors since. In 2004, an enormous blaze destroyed the church, and two Pittsburgh firefighters tragically died when the bell tower collapsed as they were fighting the flames. The community rebuilt, and the new Ebenezer Church building opened in 2006. A memorial to the firefighters is located on the first floor.

City Paper photo intern Theo Schwarz took a peek inside the church during their annual Christmas praise and celebration, and he captured these images.


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Monday, December 21, 2015

Posted By on Mon, Dec 21, 2015 at 10:59 AM

click to enlarge HITofMCM - COURTESY OF MAGGIE MARTINEZ
Courtesy of Maggie Martinez
HITofMCM

This week’s track comes from Pittsburgh producer HITofMCM with some help from Southern rapper JellyRoll; stream or download their updated club version of Devo’s “Whip It” below. 

Whip_It_-_HITTofMCM_feat._JellyRoll.mp3


To download, right-click here and select "save as"

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2015 at 5:25 PM

click to enlarge Abdulkadir Abdi being taken across the street from his bus stop on the north side of Liberty Avenue. - PHOTO BY REBECCA NUTTALL
Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
Abdulkadir Abdi being taken across the street from his bus stop on the north side of Liberty Avenue.
Videos capturing a Pittsburgh Police officer screaming at a City Paper reporter and bystanders at the scene of an alleged crime Downtown this past Wednesday have garnered regional media attention. But it is the issues of those arrested and cited that might deserve the most scrutiny.

Two teenage males were arrested — one juvenile and one 19-year-old adult — and three other teenage males were issued criminal citations. Every male arrested is part of a refugee community of East Africans that live in the housing projects in Northview Heights.

But two boys who were apprehended and cited for trespassing, Salat Abdalla, 17, and Abdulkadir Abdi, 16, told CP that they had nothing to do with situation inside the Wood Street T station, and never even set foot inside the station. Abdi says they did not even arrive on the scene until around 3:30 p.m., 15 minutes after the first juvenile allegedly hit an escalator emergency-stop button.

The ruckus, at the Wood Street T Station, was initiated by that alleged pressing of an emergency button. A bit of chaos followed, with teenagers allegedly resisting arrest and rocks allegedly being thrown. Port Authority police called for backup and seven Allegheny County Sheriffs came in support, as well as Pittsburgh Police officers and canines.

A crowd formed on the sidewalks surrounding the T station during and after the skirmish, and police officers acted “in an apparent attempt to clear the roadway and to disperse the crowd” as a result, according to a statement released by Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay. One Pittsburgh Police officer screamed at a City Paper reporter who was videotaping the scene on his cellphone, telling the reporter and a group to get back while brandishing his baton and telling to them to “quit causing problems,” even as other bystanders walked past the officer, closer toward the scene.

That video has been widely covered in local press and circulated on social media. Another video recently released might garner additional attention

Elsewhere on the scene were Salat Abdalla and Abdulkadir Abdi. The two teenagers attend Allderdice High School. Both were apprehended at a bus stop on the opposite side of Liberty Avenue. CP witnessed the two boys being cuffed by Port Authority police about 45 minutes after the reported altercation in the T station.

Abdalla says that his sister had called him from Downtown and was crying, and told him to come Downtown. When he arrived Downtown, he could not find her, so he decided to wait at his bus stop with his friend and nephew Adbi.

Eventually, a Port Authority police officer told him he was trespassing and to “get out of there.” Abdalla then questioned how he was trespassing.

“But there were many other people standing right there,” says Abdalla. “Why couldn't they tell them that they were trespassing?”

Abdalla says that the officer then said, “I am talking to you, and you better get out of here, you are trespassing.” Then Abdalla says that when he was about to leave with Abdi, a police officer moved close to Abdi and said, “Get your ass outta here.”

“Why would you get up in someone’s face like that, like you were about to fight them?” says Abdalla. “[Abdi] is just a teenager.”

click to enlarge Salat Abdalla being arrested. - PHOTO BY REBECCA NUTTALL
Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
Salat Abdalla being arrested.
Abdalla says that Abdi then verbally questioned why the officer was acting aggressive toward him. Abdi was then apprehended and pushed up against the wall. Abdalla asked the officer why he was arresting Abdi.

“And then they came at me for no reason and started arresting me too,” says Abdalla. “And then when they were taking me to the police car, I told them they were hurting my wrist and then he said, ‘I don’t give a fuck.’”

Abdalla was not sure why they were being initially told by the officer that they were trespassing because, as he says, they never even tried to get inside the T station.

“We were trying to mind our business and we were trying to get home,” says Abdalla. “We always wait for our bus at that stop. Other people were standing at that bus too, but he had to pick on us. I feel like I was arrested just for asking, ‘Why are you arresting my nephew?’”

The older sister of the one adult arrested, who goes by Fatuma R., says that she finds the whole situation highly questionable.

“Why did the police only pick these gentlemen, when they are all from Africa?” she asks. “When something happened like this, shouldn’t more people be arrested? Were they waiting for these kids?”

Both Abdalla and Abdi are part of a community of East African refugees (the two are specifically Somali Bantu). However, they dress in standard Western clothing, speak fluent English with little to no accent, and have lived in America since they were young children. They are also American citizens.

Other incidents in the immediate area were also captured on video. Siraji Hassan, a close family friend of Abdalla and Adbi, also says that the girl who was pushed to the ground by the officer in the second video shown here, is also a teenager and an African refugee. Hassan says she was concerned about her other friend, Mohamed Abdalla, whom CP caught on video being thrown the ground and arrested by Port Authority police. Hassan says the girl was taken to the hospital as a result of the altercation and was released on Dec. 17.  

Salat Abdalla and Abdi also said they barely know the boy who allegedly hit the escalator stop button, and that he goes to a different high school than they do.

Abdalla did say that while he was waiting for the bus, he and Abdi were talking on the phone to relatives and were sometimes speaking in one of their native languages close enough for police officers to overhear. He also says they were standing next to and talking to some female African students, who wear traditional head scarves.

Fatuma says she is now fearful that the boys were being investigated beforehand, since there were hundreds of people standing on the street, but only African immigrants were arrested. Abdalla estimates that there were 20 to 30 African students in the crowd surrounding the arrests.

“This shows us that one African maybe did a mistake, so does that mean all the Africans have to be punished?" says Fatuma. "We are scared for our family. We are scared the police officers might abuse our kids' lives. We don’t trust them anymore.”

Hassan says “we ran away from Somalia because of situations like this. Now we are afraid it will happen again.”

Aweys Mwaliya, president of Pittsburgh's Somali Bantu Community Association, says that when Somali Bantus first came to Pittsburgh they felt it was a safe place. Mwaliya says that refugees are educated about American culture and customs when they arrive in the U.S., including how the police work.

Mwaliya says that the history of the Bantus in Somalia and the surrounding region is one of discrimination, and that adults who remember living in Africa were afraid of police, because of the how police treated them there.

"It was something I saw with my own eyes; in Kenya, there was no process," says Mwaliya. "When you get into [the police's] hands, you get beaten, and unless you confess to the crime, they don’t let go."

He says that there is a difference between the young and the old in the Somali Bantu community. Mwaliya says that those who arrived in U.S. when they were really young cannot compare what happened with police in Kenya and Somalia. But he also notes the growing sense of anxiety inside the community, due to the rising tensions between Muslims in the U.S. and the conflict between African-Americans with the police.

Port Authority spokesperson Adam Brandolph said in an email that the claims by the family members of the arrested teenagers are "completely inaccurate."

"Our police officers do not discriminate," wrote Brandolph in an email. "The outcome of the incident was based entirely on the actions of the individuals involved."

Brandolph says that neither ethnicity nor cultural background was a factor in the arrests.

"They were not issued citations because of their ethnicity, religion, what clothing those associated with them were wearing, or the language they spoke," wrote Brandolph. "They were issued citations because they threw rocks at police officers and failed to disperse when they were instructed to do so."

When CP told them the Port Authority's assertion, Abdalla and Abdi both denied ever throwing rocks and were shocked to learn about the accusation. "Where would we even find rocks around there?" Abdalla says. Neither Abdalla and Abdi, however, was cited for rock-throwing, only for trespass.

Brandolph says that Port Authority police have "reviewed the incident at length with our police chief and have found nothing about our officers’ handling of the situation to be problematic or contrary to their training."


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Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2015 at 4:28 PM

Here's what went down in Pittsburgh this week:


1. The Pittsburgh Citizens Police Review Board has opened an inquiry into a Pittsburgh police officer’s interaction with a City Paper reporter following the incident at the Wood Street T Station on Wednesday.  CPRB Executive Director Beth Pittinger called the officer's behavior "excruciatingly unbecoming."  One juvenile was arrested for allegedly resisting arrest after hitting an emergency stop button on the Wood Street T station escalator. This situation escalated into a chaotic scene on Liberty Avenue, resulting in the arrest of one adult and criminal citations of three juveniles.  More video emerged Friday of the officer pushing a teenage girl to the ground with his baton across from the T station.

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click to enlarge Map of existing and proposed bike-infrastructure routes for Downtown. Lines in orange and red are planned and do not show the specific future alignments. - IMAGE COURTESY OF KRISTIN SAUNDERS
Image courtesy of Kristin Saunders
Map of existing and proposed bike-infrastructure routes for Downtown. Lines in orange and red are planned and do not show the specific future alignments.
2. City officials discussed new bike routes with community members Monday night. According to Pittsburgh Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Kristin Saunders, the city is currently gathering data and community input for the construction of bike infrastructure that would travel along either Boulevard of the Allies or Fort Pitt Boulevard and connect with the Eliza Furnace Trail (“Jail Trail”) at Grant Street. “If you provide safer connections to bike infrastructure, more people will bike,” says Saunders.

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click to enlarge From left: Jeanne Marie Laskas, Dr. Bennet Omalu, Giannina Scott and Dr. Clayton Wiley - PHOTO BY REBECCA NUTTALL
Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
From left: Jeanne Marie Laskas, Dr. Bennet Omalu, Giannina Scott and Dr. Clayton Wiley
3. The Bennet Omalu Foundation launched in Pittsburgh this week. The foundation will continue Omalu's work on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease he discovered after performing an autopsy on former Steelers legend Mike Webster in 2002. Omalu's work inspired the soon-to-be-released film Concussion, starring Will Smith. "If not for the city of Pittsburgh, if not for the University of Pittsburgh, I wouldn't be standing here today," said Omalu at the launch event.

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4. This week advocates testified at the Pittsburgh Public Schools board meeting, asking that the district use only buses with updated diesel-emissions controls. The district is in the process of negotiating a new bus-fleet contract for the 2016-2017 school year. Ebony Pugh, of Pittsburgh Public Schools, says the board expects that all vehicles will meet diesel-emissions control standards by the second year of their new agreement. However, the Group Against Smog and Pollution, which advocates for the reduction diesel-particulate-matter pollution, says it would like to see the district get "the cleanest buses possible as soon as possible."

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5. Harlem Globetrotter Joyce "Sweet J" Ekworomadu stopped by the Steel City Media offices on Wednesday to show off some tricks and to promote the upcoming Globetrotters game at Consol Energy Center on Dec. 26. Ekworomadu is the 12th female Globetrotter in the team's 90-year history. "I never knew that when I was 10 years old playing basketball with boys that I would be almost 30 now playing basketball with men," she told CP during a Q&A session.

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6. People rushed to the theater in droves last night for the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. City Paper reviewed the film on Tuesday and called it "follow-up movie that fans deserve and have waited 32 years for."

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From the pages of our print edition:

click to enlarge Bob Paganico, of the Spirit of Christmas, sits in his bar Bob’s Garage Restaurant and Lounge. - PHOTO BY THEO SCHWARZ
Photo by Theo Schwarz
Bob Paganico, of the Spirit of Christmas, sits in his bar Bob’s Garage Restaurant and Lounge.

In this week's issue, multimedia editor and reporter Ashley Murray followed several Pittsburgh characters behind local toy drives. These men and women invest significant resources and man power to bring toys to children in low-income families, from Sharpsburg to Monroeville to the Hill District and several communities in between. These real-life Santas range from a retired homicide detective to a bar/restaurant owner who covers his place, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling in lights, garlands, ornaments and stockings during the holiday season.

Their reasons for doing this vary — from community relations and business exposure to pure kindness. Regardless of motive, they have built a Christmas-toy-drive economy in Pittsburgh, and right now their business is in full swing. 

“Every year, energy comes all over me,” says Jimmy Cvetic, the retired county police detective and Vietnam veteran who founded the Western Pennsylvania Police Athletic League. This year, he's galvanized 30 police departments, several churches and a federal judge to collect names of families who might need help.

Read the feature, hear the voices and see the faces of these real-life Santas in our video and photo slideshow as well.

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Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2015 at 4:04 PM

We slog through the twitter streams of the 2016 Presidential candidates and give you a weekly round-up of the more entertaining ones.

This week's debate didn't seem to shift the field very much — the losers kept losing, the random half-truths and bellicose calls for destruction kept coming, and America kept watching.


Here's a succinct foreign-policy strategy, culled from the debate.

Huckabee made another strained attempt at humor and insulted two cities.


Even Jeb! was wondering about the Las Vegas Review-Journal's mystery buyer. (He can relax: It was revealed to be mega-GOP-donor Sheldon Adelson.)


Rand Paul won the public approval of his dad. Which doesn't seem like much, until you recall George Bush Sr.'s silence on Jeb.


Rand also appears to be the first candidate to acknowledge the upcoming Festivus.



Graham continues his role as Trump Cassandra.


Bernie does some timely pandering to the Christmas-card crowd.


Pataki mansplains Ronda Rousey to Rick Santorum.




I went on Carson's website to check out this LP (alas no soundclips).

And while there I found this sad dog. People, do not impose your politics on helpless pets!










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Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2015 at 1:46 PM

click to enlarge On the left is the officer approaching a City Paper reporter. On the right is an officer pushing a teen girl with his baton.
On the left is the officer approaching a City Paper reporter. On the right is an officer pushing a teen girl with his baton.
A police officer who was videotaped yelling at a City Paper reporter on Wednesday, as the reporter videotaped the scene outside of the Wood Street T Station, has shown up in a YouTube video pushing a young girl with his baton and shouting obscenities at the crowd.

The most recent video, shot by someone who posted it under the name Asi Lovely, shows the unidentified officer pushing the teen to the ground and shouting, "Get on the sidewalk, god damn it. Get the fuck out of here."

He then tells a person recording the scene to "Get it all on tape. Make sure you get it all, asshole." 

The teen who was pushed can be heard asking about her brother, whom she says police have taken into custody, before she is pushed. The video initially shows the teen standing near an Allegheny County Sheriff's deputy. However, the city police officer pushes the deputy out of the way to get to the girl and then pushes her with the baton.

Sources tell CP that the officer's name is Nicholas Papa, who according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article graduated from the police academy in 2009. The Pittsburgh Citizens Police Review Board has opened an inquiry into the interaction on Wednesday between Papa and City Paper reporter Ryan Deto. The interaction occurred as Deto videotaped the scene of the arrest of a juvenile who was allegedly hitting the emergency button on the T station's escalator; an adult who was charged with three misdemeanors; and three juveniles who were later cited for misdemeanors and released. The first several seconds of the video are below, and it can be seen in its entirety here.

City Paper brought the video to the attention of Beth Pittinger, the executive director of the CPRB. Pittinger called the video “awful.”

“We believe this to be the same officer from the City Paper video, and yesterday I said he lost his professional poise, today it’s even worse,” Pittinger said. “Even the little things like banging the mailbox with the baton and the language shows me that this guy was clearly out of control. You don’t do this to children." 

“I am stunned with that officer’s conduct toward that kid. He even pushed a deputy out of the way to get to her. This is clearly unbecoming at the very least. She’s crying and upset, and he uses force against her.”

Pittinger said she believes the officer also stepped outside of the professional code of conduct by pushing the deputy out of the way.

“That deputy didn’t seem to be concerned,” Pittinger said. “He wasn’t escalating. He was in command and control of that situation. Apparently whatever that young girl did annoyed the city officer, and he pushed the deputy and ran in there like a bat out of hell.”

Late Thursday, Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay released a statement about the initial video indicating that: "On first examination, the video provided shows no evidence of serious police misconduct. The matter will be investigated by Police Zone 2 command and the Office of Municipal Investigations, to address questions raised about officer conduct. During tense times such as these, it can be challenging for officers to maintain professional decorum, but doing so is an expectation of our profession. Training, counseling or discipline will occur as the need is identified during these reviews."


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Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2015 at 1:45 PM


This week, advocates testified at the Pittsburgh Public Schools board meeting, asking that the district use only buses with updated diesel-emissions controls

"It's the perfect time for the school district to say, 'We only want to utilize buses with emissions controls,'" says Rachel Fillipini of the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), an environmental-policy and watchdog organization.

That's because the school district is negotiating a new contract with its bus-fleet providers. GASP seized on the timing to deliver more than 200 signed postcards to the meeting as well as testimony.

Buses that are a 2007 model or newer are generally equipped with diesel-emissions controls; older models can be retrofitted.

"As we approach 2016, it is perfectly reasonable to expect all school buses being used by the district to have pollution controls. These controls can reduce toxic diesel emissions by up to 90 percent. By using this technology, your students and staff, the community, and the drivers would be exposed to significantly less pollution," Jamin Bogi, GASP's policy and outreach coordinator, said in his written testimony.

GASP also asked the school board to include in its contract language that would mandate bus companies to train drivers in Pennsylvania's diesel idling law, which prohibits commercial vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds from idling for more than five minutes. (There's an exception for vehicles with passengers still on board, to account for their heating/cooling needs.)

GASP has provided educational signs about the law for the outside of more than a dozen school districts in the area.

Ebony Pugh, Pittsburgh Public Schools public-information officer, says a new service agreement with bus companies wouldn’t begin until the 2016-17 school year. The new agreement has not been finalized and would require board approval, she says.   

"Ensuring that our entire fleet is running clean is a priority for the district. While a majority of our vehicles are 2007 or newer or retrofitted, we anticipate that by the second year of our new service agreement all vehicles will meet the standard," Pugh wrote in an email to City Paper.

But GASP says the sooner the better.

"We feel that the school board should prioritize student health, and so they should negotiate a contract with school-bus companies that allows them to get the cleanest buses possible as soon as possible," Fillipini tells City Paper.

GASP is especially concerned because of a 2013 report out of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health that identified diesel particulate matter as the "greatest single cancer risk among individual pollutants in this area." The report looked at the 10-county Western Pennsylvania region, and examined air pollutants including benzene and formaldehyde, among others.

Bogi told the board of education: "Children are especially vulnerable, as they breathe at a faster rate than adults and are physically closer to diesel-pollution sources. And since their bodies are still developing, damage now could impact their bodies and minds for years to come." 

City Paper will be following any developments in the school board's decision.





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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Posted By on Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 3:14 PM

click to enlarge Police take an individual into custody on Liberty Avenue Wednesday - IMAGE FROM VIDEO BY RYAN DETO
Image from video by Ryan Deto
Police take an individual into custody on Liberty Avenue Wednesday
Updated: 3:40 p.m.: Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay released a statement Thursday saying “As a result of complaints received, there will be an investigation into the conduct of Police Bureau members.” However McLay added that: “Video was released showing a chaotic scene with officers acting in an apparent attempt to clear the roadway and to disperse the crowd in order to prevent further disturbances.

“On first examination, the video provided shows no evidence of serious police misconduct. The matter will be investigated by Police Zone 2 command and the Office of Municipal Investigations, to address questions raised about officer conduct.”

The full release is below:

PITTSBURGH, PA – The following is a statement from Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Chief Cameron McLay:

Pittsburgh Police responded to assist Port Authority Police with a large juvenile disturbance at the Wood Street T-Station at approximately 3:30 p.m. yesterday. As a result of complaints received, there will be an investigation into the conduct of Police Bureau members.

Video was released showing a chaotic scene with officers acting in an apparent attempt to clear the roadway and to disperse the crowd in order to prevent further disturbances.

On first examination, the video provided shows no evidence of serious police misconduct. The matter will be investigated by Police Zone 2 command and the Office of Municipal Investigations, to address questions raised about officer conduct.

During tense times such as these, it can be challenging for officers to maintain professional decorum, but doing so is an expectation of our profession. Training, counseling or discipline will occur as the need is indentified during these reviews.

Original Post: More details are emerging about the incident that occurred inside the Wood Street T Station Wednesday afternoon when two Port Authority Police Officers allegedly witnessed a juvenile male pressing the emergency shut-off button of an escalator at the Wood Street T station, Downtown. The aftermath of that one alleged action, led to the apprehension and arrest of a juvenile, an adult and the citation of three additional juveniles.

During the incident, crowds formed in the surrounding sidewalks, and the intensity of the scene escalated as police officers from Pittsburgh Police, Port Authority Police and the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office attempted to disperse the gathering crowds. A video taken by City Paper shows one suspect being taken into custody, followed by an incident between a Pittsburgh Police officer and a CP reporter, with the officer brandishing his baton and yelling, "Make sure you get it all on your tape, big boy, with your telephone." The Pittsburgh Citizens Police Review Board has opened an inquiry into the officer’s interaction with the reporter.

Here's what has been learned, so far, about the initial incident:

At approximately 3:17 p.m., two PAT police officers allegedly witnessed a male juvenile pressing the emergency shut-off buttons of an escalator inside the Wood Street T station, according to PAT spokesperson Adam Brandolph.

The two officers approached the juvenile and requested to see his identification. He allegedly refused and then “pulled away from the officers” and “attempted to run away,” says Brandolph.

Then the juvenile was apprehended, and he allegedly kicked the two officers during the arrest. While this juvenile was being placed in the squad car, at least one juvenile was throwing rocks at the police, according to Brandolph.

Allegheny County Sheriff William Mullen says that seven of his officers responded to calls for back up from the PAT, with the PAT saying that bricks and bottles were thrown. Brandolph says that according to the report, rocks were thrown, not bricks or bottles.

One of the juveniles was taken to Shuman Juvenile Detention Center, and Brandolph says that juvenile was the one who allegedly hit an escalator’s emergency off button.

After this arrest, a 19-year-old male, Haji Muzhimu was arrested and charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstructing public passages. Brandolph says the PAT police report alleges that “he failed to vacate the area and continued to occupy the area while yelling and screaming.” According to a criminal court search of Muzhimu, he has no prior arrests.

An additional three juveniles were apprehended and cited. Two were cited with trespassing, and one was cited with disorderly conduct. It was not confirmed by Brandolph who the individual in the CP video was or what he was charged with.

Brandolph says that there is video footage of the incident from cameras in the Wood Street T station that is currently being examined by PAT police. Those videos have not been made public, nor would he say if they would be.



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